Monday, July 16, 2007

Blueberry Weekend

On Friday, the fine young gents and their lovely young sister piled in the van and we drove up the beautiful McKenzie River Highway to The Berry Patch to pick blueberries with friends. The weather was perfect. The fine young gents helped lovely lady's friend pick blueberries and pretended that they saw bears in the bushes. Lovely lady picked for about 15 minutes, then sat in the car reading a magazine and listening to her iPod until it was time to go. Best of all, I picked a bucket of blueberries, about 12 pounds.

The McKenzie River Valley is gorgeous. After our berry outing on Friday we all drove up to the dam and across to a beautiful park at Leaburg Lake for a picnic. It was one of those perfect relaxed afternoons-- the kids entertained one another, so my friend and I talked and talked about our daughters, about the boys.

We stopped to feed our picnic leftovers to the ducks and geese. On our way back to the car we found our Cinnabar moth caterpillars.

Dear friend down the street went to get cherries, seconds from the cherry orchard for $4/bucket. "Would you like me to pick up some cherries for you too?" she asked when she called on Friday morning. I came home from Friday's blueberry outing to a huge box of cherries on my counter.

On Saturday I went back to The Berry Patch with my sisters. Sisters make the best blueberry buddies, and it's way easier to pick without little boys falling down and eating the berries out of my bucket. We laughed and talked and made fun of Mom (not really, Mom) and told Meg she had earwigs in her hair. I picked 27 pounds of berries with the help of my Irie sis, who helped top off our buckets once she was done with hers. Saturday is Dollar Day at the Berry Patch, a dollar a pound, a fantastic deal, especially considering what you'd pay for a flat of berries once they reach the fruit stands.

Cobbler and jam, and canning cherries.

I pitted the cherries. Sheesh. That's a heck of a lot of work. I didn't have a cherry pitter, so I used a bobby pin. How to pit cherries with a bobby pin: Slide the bobby pin into the cherry through the stem end, hook the pit and pull it out. You get the hang of it pretty fast. Then the dear friend who got me the cherries in the first place finished pitting hers and brought me her cherry pitter. It's a little bit faster pitting cherries with a pitter like this one. The cherries were juicy, dark and sweet. If you're pitting cherries don't wear your favorite shirt. I looked like an axe murderer.

I made the best cobbler ever, blueberry-cherry. The sweet cherries balance the blandness of cooked blueberries, the mellow blueberries smooth the bright sweetness of the cherries. Perfect. (Cobbler recipe here, at the end of the post. I used about 4 c. blueberries and 2 c. cherries, which seemed to create the perfect balance.)

I froze most of the rest of the blueberries.

Then the dilemma. The freezer's getting full, and I still have a huge box of cherries and a giant bowl of blueberries. I decided to can the cherries, even though I've never canned cherries before. Thank goodness for Google, I found step-by-step directions (and other information on preserving fresh fruit too) here. Now I've got several pints of canned cherries in the basement next to all the jars of strawberry and raspberry jam.

Blueberry jam. I've never made it before because blueberry skins didn't seem to be quite the thing for jam. But I had hot jars and lids left from canning cherries, so I decided to give it a whirl. Mashing blueberries with a potato masher, which works dandy with strawberries and raspberries, is awful. A quick spin through the food processor, and not only are the berries mashed, but the skins are no longer a problem. I had just enough berries for one batch of low-sugar blueberry jam. It's nice, a bit bland, good on toast. Next batch I want to try blueberry-lime, with extra lime juice and some lime zest to kick the flavor up a notch.

I'm off to help loving husband polish off the rest of the cobbler!

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